There is much we do not know about giant anteater behavior due to the fact that there is only a relatively small body of research on these creatures in the wild. One thing we do know is that giant anteaters tend to be solitary animals - they do not have permanent resting places or nests that they go back to regularly. However, studies suggest they do have territories, which they may defend. The main exception to their solitary life appears to be when they meet individuals of the opposite sex to mate and when a mother and young are together for the first year or so of the youngster's life.
Each night, a giant anteater finds a secluded spot and curls up to sleep, with its long bushy tail covering its head and body. These animals are light sleepers - they will wake at the slightest sound. This ability to wake easily is probably due in part to the fact that giant anteaters are solitary, so they must be ready to protect themselves at a moment's notice.
Smell is also important to giant anteaters' behavior. Research has found that giant anteaters can identify the particular species of ant or termite they are about to consume by smell before they rip open the prey's nest. These animals may also mark their territory in the wild with anal secretions, which other anteaters would then be able to smell as well.
While some giant anteaters appear to be strictly diurnal (active during the day and asleep at night) others appear to be just the opposite. Diurnal anteaters tend to be found most often in areas remote from civilization, while nocturnal anteaters live in more heavily (human) populated areas.
Though some research shows that ancestral giant anteaters may have been bipedal, current giant anteaters walk on all fours with their noses close to the ground. They are known as knuckle-walkers, since they actually lean on their front knuckles as they go along. This is done to protect their claws, which they fold underneath their palms while they walk. Anteaters walk in a relatively slow shuffling gait, in which they bear most of their weight on the sides of their outermost forefoot digits. However, giant anteaters can pick up speed when they need to; they do this in a galloping sort of fashion. Giant anteaters are also very good swimmers.
When threatened or frightened, anteaters will amble away if possible. If not, they rear into a bipedal stance, holding themselves up with their large tails. In this tripod-like position an anteater can defend itself with its big claws and strong front legs. These claws are extremely powerful - they can tear into skin of predators, including humans, as well as their biggest animal predators, jaguars and pumas.
Giant anteaters rarely make sounds. When they do it is mostly when they are young; the sound is a high-pitched, shrilly grunt noise. A baby that has fallen off his mother's back will grunt to his mother either to remind her that he has fallen off or to simply instruct her where he is or to get her attention.
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